Ag Stewardship Center Expands

In Fall 2021, Issue, News by Sarah Moss

Dordt’s Agriculture Stewardship Center is expanding, making more hands-on learning opportunities available to students.  

A new monoslope building will give students a large lab space to work with live animals, says Dr. Holly De Vries, assistant professor of agriculture. The building has only one slope to its roof, with a roof truss that is higher on the front side giving an open end facing south. A working chute for cattle will be located in the center of the facility.

And there will be plenty of live animals. In addition to the existing livestock at the facility, the Agriculture Department will collaborate with a local dairy farmer to raise replacement heifers to between 10 and 16 months of age at the Agriculture Stewardship Center. There will also be space in the building for lambs, giving Dordt students the opportunity to care for, feed, and breed these animals. 

“This is going to give us state-of-the-art facilities for livestock and allow us to increase the livestock that are here year-round,” says Gary De Vries, professor of agriculture and department chair.

“It will not only provide extensive hands-on work opportunities, but also bolster interdisciplinary and professional connections,” says Dr. Holly De Vries. “Students will get to work alongside nutritionists, breeding companies, veterinarians, and other professionals to formulate and apply a care plan for the heifers.”

Agriculture majors will also benefit from a new three-season greenhouse, starting plants from seed early in the spring and maintaining them later into the fall semester than they are currently able to do. Professor of Agriculture Dr. Jeremy Hummel hopes to use the greenhouse to research stone fruit trees, like peach and apple trees, which will be part of the permanent collection and can be used for labs.

“Stone fruit trees do not grow well in Iowa, but they are a staple in places like California, so we want to be able to conduct research on them so our students can learn about this aspect of agriculture as well,” says Gary De Vries.

And there will be a “flex” building, which can be used for a variety of purposes—a space where agriculture students might raise chickens for the Foods Connecting to Life class or a place where the Beef and Sheep Science class can house their sheep.

Dr. Holly De Vries hopes the renovations will also make Dordt feel more like home to students who come from farming families.

“One of the hardest parts about coming to college is leaving the home farm, because that’s what they know and that’s what they enjoy. We hope that these updates to the Agriculture Stewardship Center help it to feel more like home for students,” she says.